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Robusta and Espresso.

One used to say that there were two Frances, the northern one which cooked with butter and the southern one which cooked with oil. This dual personality has become somewhat less noticeable with an increasingly mobile population and the advent of fast food restaurants. In the same way, on the topic of coffee, it is obvious that there are two Europes: northern Europe, which prefers a light, pale drink, mostly made from Arabica coffees, and southern Europe, which prefers a strong dark drink mostly roasted from Robusta coffees. Yet in this case too, there are changes bringing shifts between these two realities, and although we have the highly touted success of Arabica in recent years, we also have an enduring and consistently important share of Robusta in European coffee consumption.

As statistics for 1990 were influenced by a massive transfer of inventorles from producing to consuming countries (where they have not yet been consumed), we'll keep to 1989 figures, which are final. Calculations provided by the Jacques-Louis Delamare firm show that the 1989 share of Robusta in European imports was 28.3%, versus 25.9% in 1988. Does this kind of performance mean that the 'irresistible rise of Arabica coffees' is a myth? The European Coffee Federation report for 1989 confirms the above figures and shows an increasing Robusta share in traditionally Arabica-drinking countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

The fashion for espresso drinking, gaining throughout Europe, is probably one reason for this trend. The espresso boom has led most roasters to include an espresso-taste brand (positioned as an Italian-taste coffee) in their product range. Nearly half of the trend-setting Italian coffee consumption consists of Robustas. This is hardly a coincidence as Robusta coffees have characteristics that make them a requisite ingredient in the recipes for the great majority of espresso blends. Most espresso lovers like their coffee to be strong, dark and topped with foam--in more than name a 'robust' drink.

Strong Coffee; first Robusta asset: To obtain it, a Robusta/Arabica blend is preferable. Arabicas are highly aromatic and Robustas have body, which gives them their specific value for espresso making.

Dark Coffee; second Robusta asset: The so-called Italian, deep roast reduces coffee's acidic taste. Robustas can stand a more intense roast then Arabicas, thereby making for a darker coffee.

Coffee with Foam; Foam is what makes espresso special, and the enthusiast can verify his cup by the color and consistency of the froth that crowns the drink when it arrives from the machine. The foam is the result of steam pressure under which espresso coffee is made, whereas other coffees are made under atmospheric pressure.

The flavor components of coffee are of two kinds. Some, which are water soluble, are extracted under atmospheric pressure, the extraction rate is between 16 and 18%. The others are oil soluble and cannot be extracted by filtration or perculation; they are 'dislocated' by steam and the resulting coffee is denser and richer in flavor, the extraction rate goes up to 25 or 26%. It is these oil soluble aroma agents that give nose and body to the espresso cup of coffee; they remain at the top of the cup as foam, i.e. an emulsion of water and aromatic oils. Among these oil soluble components, phospholipids, which yield a greater amount of foam than others, are found in larger quantities in Robustas than in Arabicas; third Robusta asset.

Robusta Essential to Espresso

Thus Robusta coffees contribution to a cup of good espresso coffee is obviously critical. Espresso coffee drinking is growing rapidly as evidenced by the sales of espresso making machines for home and bar, and with the growth centered in northern Europe and North America, affluent and quality conscious markets. Clearly, one needs good-quality Robusta coffees in order to make good espresso coffee. And this is where the OAMCAF Groups efforts have been most rewarding, in striving for a consistently good quality range of coffees, coming up to established and rigorously held standards.
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Title Annotation:European coffee trends
Author:Delaporte, Guy
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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